Ron Paul’s analogical reasoning

In the comments on the previous post, NashvilleBrian suggested we take a look at Ron Paul's argument that the SEAL raid to kill OBL was 'absolutely not necessary.'  It all sounded very much like the Ron Paul who impressed me back in '08 — insisting that we respect national boundaries for sovereignty, cooperate with other governments, and so on.  Of course, the folks at FOX News are going nuts about it.  I was curious, and I took a look.

In an interview with Simon Conway (the excerpt posted here), Paul made two arguments for pursuing OBL in Pakistan in a different way. 

The first argument was that Pakistan is an ally and a sovereign country.  It is a serious breach of international law to show up with a military force inside of another country without their knowledge — even if we are subsidizing their military.  Paul makes this point with an analogy:

I think respect for the rule of law and world law and international law. What if he'd been in a hotel in London?

This seems reasonable, if only to show that, assuming we'd balk at sending choppers into the outskirts of London, the trouble is to say what's the relevant difference.  Excepting the thought that folks have been expressing concerns that Pakistan hadn't really been pursuing OBL. (I'll come to that at the end of the post.) And of course, if we had the intel and gave it to the Pakistanis and ran backup, that'd done the job, right?  Again, I don't know, but it's on those who are reacting so strongly to Paul to explain why that's a bad plan.  Not to just go crazy and say he's not fit for the presidency.   Another thing to address is Paul's second analogy — that between the pursuit of OBL and KSM.  With Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, we relied on the Pakistanis to apprehend him.  They got him just fine. Here's Paul:

I think things could have been done somewhat differently.  I would suggest the way they got Khalid [Sheikh] Mohammed. We went and cooperated with Pakistan. They arrested him, actually, and turned him over to us, and he's been in prison. Why can't we work with the government?

In that case, Pakistan showed themselves to be a reliable ally and capable terrorist-hunting government.  So what gives?  Have the facts on the ground changed in a significant way since then?  Perhaps they have — KSM was caught on Musharraf's watch, and there is now a very different government.  But is that relevant?  Again, I don't know, but isn't it the job of those criticizing Paul to explain where the error is?  Instead we get stuff like this:

"If there is any doubt that Ron Paul should not even get near the Oval Office, even on a tour of the White House, he has just revealed it," Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said on his website. "For a Congressman to say the raid to kill the man who is one of the greatest mass murderers of Americans in history was, 'not necessary,' is simply nuts."

Well, at least it is clear that Phillips disagrees with Paul.  Not at all clear why.  Sigh.

Now, a point about Paul's last analogy.  I'm not convinced by it.  Pakistan was cooperative with KSM, but that was still pretty close in time to 9/11, and they haven't exactly been cooperative before.  And especially with OBL. As noted by Ed Morrisey at Hot Air, the Pakistani Intelligence Service provided the intel for Bill Clinton's strike on OBL, but they also tipped him that it was coming.  Oh, and it's not like they've done a bang-up job chasing him down in the meantime.  Again, that's not a reason to not respect their sovereignty, but it does weaken the reasons for Paul's confidence that cooperation would have worked.

6 thoughts on “Ron Paul’s analogical reasoning”

  1. Clever segue, homey. What I was after, though, was if the killing of bin Laden was 'justice' or  something else maybe 'vengeance.' I'm surprised our well-educated President used the term 'justice' so loosely. To me, justice requires due process. It reminds me of calling suicide bombers 'cowardly' — wrong word!

  2. Maybe what we do is 'justice' what they do is 'cowardly' or 'vengeance' or 'evil.'

  3. First, I find it funny that Ron Paul would appeal to international law to support any argument.

    However, I don't share Scott's reservations regarding Paul's analogy. What is the relevant difference between London and Pakistan with respect to international law? None as far as I can tell.
    I think Paul's analogy is rather illuminating. The best defense against Paul's "rule of law" argument is a pragmatic claim about the unlikelihood that Pakistan would cooperate with us in killing (capturing?) UBL. We clearly violated Pakistan's sovereignty, and probably violated international law by carrying out an assassination. The burden is on the interlocutor to demonstrate the necessity for violating these laws and denying UBL due process.

  4. Hi Jem,
    I think we have a misunderstanding.  My objection was to the pragmatic argument that we could expect cooperation, not to the principle of respecting national sovereignty.  Last sentence: "Again, that's not a reason to not respect their sovereignty, but it does weaken the reasons for Paul's confidence that cooperation would have worked."
    And on a side note: Paul was on CSPAN last night, and he suggested that the best way to get OBL was to use the private sector.  Like how Ross Perot hired soldiers of fortune to get people out of Iran.  That makes me think, like Jem, that he's not entirely forthright in invoking international law.

  5. My point was directed toward Paul's analogy, which I think does a decent of job of first, capturing our intuitions regarding how inconsistently international law is followed or invoked, and second, leading us to the pragmatic issues that are truly at the heart of this issue. On that point I am in agreement.
    The sovereignty issue has been rendered moot, anyhow. Unmanned drones have been carrying out assassination missions in Pakistan for years now without any legal authorization by the Pakistani government. A SEAL team strike doesn't seem to be very different in kind from those activities.

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